Few mixed martial artists in this day and age commit themselves so fully to one art as Khalil Rountree Jr. An anomaly, he has been outspoken in his love for Muay Thai, stating that his strategy is to learn just enough grappling to get by so that he can focus on dominating on the feet. While this sounds like old-world thinking in the martial arts, it has led to incredibly impressive performance, putting on a clinic against the always dangerous Erik Anders and most notably knocking out kickboxing superstar Gökhan Saki in the UFC.
While this may not always work out for him against the sport’s best wrestlers, on Saturday Rountree will have an opponent all too willing to stand with him. Modestas ‘The Baltic Gladiator’ Bukauskas is a four-time British kickboxing champion, as well as the former Cage Warriors champ.
Similarly, both fighters are coming off of two losses apiece, following career-high performances. Therefore look for both men trying to regain the sensation of victory from not so long ago, while at the same time fighting back from a low point in their careers. Regardless of victory, this looks to be a high-level scrap with a good chance at a KO victory from either side.
Rountree Jr. vs. Bukauskas betting odds
- Rountree Jr: +130
- Bukauskas: -160
Rountree Jr. vs. Bukauskas breakdown
Both men are elite strikers predominantly, but approach it differently. Rountree Jr. utilizes a pretty traditional Thai style especially by MMA standards, he is a southpaw that stands with a light front leg in order to switch kick and check and he throws heavy with every shot. Comparatively, Bukauskas keeps his feet further apart and likes to use longer, flashier movements more akin to American kickboxing. Look for his spinning kicks and backfists as well as the question mark kick occasionally.
One of the major differences between them is the jab, Rountree Jr.’s jab is more akin to a paw, and he doesn’t rotate with it because it’s essentially a distance measure used to place his kicks or rear hand punches. From the front arm, the real danger is in his leaping right hook. Early in the fight, he will establish this move, which he plants heavily before leaping- the issue presented is this plant is also a telegraph. However, later in the fight when he feels his opponent has a read on this, he will plant and load the hook but throw the left straight instead to catch his opponent off guard.
In his wider stance, Bukaskas uses a quicker and more lunging jab. There’s more firepower behind it and he throws it from a greater distance. While Rountree Jr. plods forward, Bukauskas is much more ready to skirt the perimeter of the cage and snap forward with his jab as his opponent tries to cut him off.
Rountree Jr. is one of the best at breaking down his opponent’s legs, particularly with his inside leg kick. Regardless of whether he is facing a southpaw or orthodox fighter, he looks for the inside either with the switch kick or rear. Bukauskas is an orthodox fighter so look for the rear leg kick. However, in terms of his hands, his best being his right hook and left straight- because he throws with so much conviction he does have a tendency to tire out late.
However, this is also an issue for Bukauskas as well, who uses a lot of energy going for long strikes. Furthermore in Bukauskas’ case, because his footwork is wider and more exaggerated he also finds himself missing big when he does miss and finds himself out of position. This has led to getting hit with big counters in the past.
While I believe both men will want to test their striking abilities against one another, if one of them does decide to mix it up late it will be Bukauskas. He has the background in pure striking but has a more open mind in terms of using the arsenal of MMA than Rountree Jr. Bukaskas may not have the wrestling ability to take Rountree Jr. down who is very good at stuffing shots from afar, but because Rountree Jr. is unapologetic in his approach to always look to strike, Bukaskas does not have to worry about getting caught in submissions as he attempts to hold him down.
Rountree Jr. vs. Bukauskas prediction
Ultimately I think that Rountree Jr. could find himself in trouble if Bukauskas continually mixes it up. However, I don’t believe that will be the case and we will see a largely striking dominant fight. Bukauskas has a habit of putting himself on the outside of the cage, which allows Rountree Jr. to work moving forward where he does his best, because of this I think Rountree Jr. will be more comfortable in this matchup than his previous two and we will see the best version of him.
Prediction: Khalil Rountree Jr. by KO or decision
Braeden Arbour is an aspiring journalist out of Ontario, Canada. He is a recent graduate of Trent University, with a black belt in Karate and a blue belt in Judo. He has also been an avid fan of MMA for the last decade.